- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 1, 2001

Israel has warded off dozens of cyber-attacks on its government and corporations since the Palestinian uprising began last year, blazing a trail that could help the United States develop defenses for future electronic conflicts, terrorism experts and Israeli officials say.
"Attacks have come from 19 countries, targeting 50 Israel corporations and government Web sites," said RAND analyst Bruce Hoffman. "Israel is developing cutting-edge defenses against this."
Israel's development of futuristic tactics in what one Israel official called the newest "front" in warfare recalls its battle-testing of American jets, tanks and missiles against Soviet bloc weapons during the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israel wars.
Terrorism experts from RAND and from iDefense, an Alexandria firm advising the U.S. government and industry, say Israel's experience in beating off cyber-attacks will likely serve to protect American government and industry against similar attacks.
But the current Middle East conflict is also a proving ground for groups intent on fouling up America. "The cyber conflict is serving as a proof of concept for rebel, terrorist, activist and other disenfranchised groups around the world," said an iDefense report on the Middle East conflict.
As the Middle East cyber-war — called by some Muslims an e-jihad or cyber-jihad — went on, the world yesterday braced for an expected resurgence of a cyber-worm programmed to reappear last night.
Despite Israel's effectiveness in fighting attacks, pro-Palestinian hackers from Pakistan and many other Muslim and even Western countries managed to deface several Israeli and Jewish sites — even briefly forcing the closure of the Israeli foreign and defense ministry Web sites. But efforts to shut down Israel's airports, ports, banks and stock market all failed.
"Israel is very aware of the phenomenon [of cyber-attacks] and is taking steps to deal with it," said an Israeli Embassy official yesterday.
Despite recent fears — often the subject of novels — that hackers could cause airplanes to crash, traffic lights to misfire and electric or water systems to go haywire, the Israeli official said, "I've never heard of a single successful cyber terrorist attack" against these institutions.
The field is so new that terrorists are constantly seeking to get around defenses and to learn how they have been blocked from access to their targets, he said.
He refused to detail any efforts to block cyber-terrorism but acknowledged the issue "has come up in U.S.-Israel counter-terrorism talks."
"I would not say we are totally cyber terrorist proof, but we have made efforts to protect our virtual world," he added.
Attacks against Israel began in earnest after the latest violence between Palestinians and Israelis began last September. Pro-Palestinian groups attacked 166 Israeli Web sites in the next few months, according to the iDefense report.
Pro-Israeli groups — which were the first to begin hacking — meanwhile had targeted 34 Palestinian, Arab or extremist sites.
The report cites attacks on the Palestinian Authority and sites in seven countries: Iran, Israel, Lebanon, Malaysia,, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.
The targets include critical Web sites, e-commerce servers, Internet relay chat servers, domain name servers, Internet service provider infrastructure and file transfer protocol sites, iDefense reported.
"The commercial sector is bearing the brunt of the pro-Palestinian cyber assault," the report said. The target industries have been technology, telecommunications, fi-nance, media and health.
Since the United States has often been the target of terrorist attacks by Muslim groups angry at U.S. support for Israel, Mr. Hoffman and the iDefense report focused in on the threat of cyber-jihad spreading to American targets.
"If the United States came to become involved in activity in the region which generates a significant level of outrage in the Muslim community, there is a distinct possibility that U.S. government and commercial organizations will face cyber attacks much like those hitting Israel today," said the iDefense report.
Attacks on the United States could be started in from 24 to 48 hours.
One pro-Palestinian site actually distributed computer viruses such as the Love Bug and Melissa, which have infected millions of computers, but it admonished those who downloaded those viruses to use them only "on Jews and Israelis."

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